The Block

Art & Culture — 4 years ago

State of Play: Visual Creative Industries

Four members of the global creative community on why T-shirts are their lifeline right now. 


Making a living as an artist is never easy, but the COVID-19 crisis looks set to pose a near-unprecedented challenge to creatives, musicians and artists alike, especially those early on in their career. 


While some industries, music in particular, have felt the effects of the crisis almost immediately in cancelled tours, gigs, and venue closures, for others it’s been slower. Visual creatives across the board have seen work slow and projects get put on hold, but for many it’s a case of still trying to evaluate exactly what the fall out will look like. 


Anything that offers stability right now is a lifeline. Here Kim Van Vuuren, Lucas Hesse, Sarah Firth and Ignorance1 reflect on how the past few weeks have affected what they do, and why merch is vital.

Everpress Team
Courtesy of Lucas Hesse

Lucas Hesse

For the past four years Lucas Hesse has balanced freelancing alongside a degree in graphic design. Upon graduating a few months ago he relocated from Mainz to Hamburg, where he now works on commissions across graphic design, motion design and web development.

Courtesy of Lucas Hesse

“I’m already used to working from home and communicating with my clients over email or video chats, so my working environment hasn’t changed much. But the crisis is definitely still affecting my working life. Already, I’ve had some jobs cancelled and some briefings have been changed completely. Many projects, especially events, are shifting more and more to digital, which in turn generates new jobs. I think this also offers a great opportunity for self-employed people like me; for every product that is now shifting to digital, new infrastructures have to be set up, resulting in new orders for graphic designer, web developer etc.”

Every problem is an opportunity to develop anew

Courtesy of Lucas Hesse

“I have always liked to focus on the positive things, and I do believe that with the right attitude you can achieve whatever you want to. This crisis presents many people with great challenges, there’s no question about that. But for me, every problem is always an opportunity to rethink and develop anew, and if you are flexible and open to new things then you will survive this unusual time stronger. I think the creative industry especially can react with great flexibility to every change. Some jobs might be eliminated, but some jobs will be transformed into new opportunities, and these new challenges will create new and exciting solutions. Creative people can have a decisive influence on these solutions.”

Kim Van Vuuren

Kim Van Vuuren started out as a graphic and web designer, but going freelance in 2016 was the push she needed to move into painting too. Originally from South Africa, but based out of Barcelona since 2018, her work spans everything from client commissions to her own personal design projects too.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home at any time, so the crisis hasn’t affected my work ethic that much. It’s actually given me the time to focus on several areas of my work that I had been neglecting to finish. As you know, festivals, campaigns, events have been cancelled. Production has come to a halt –  and most creatives have felt the ripple effect of this situation. So I have a few project launches that are postponed, and due to the uncertainty for businesses, I have also lost work.”

Courtesy of Kim Van Vuuren

“I find comfort though in the fact that we’re ALL experiencing losses. As a society we’ve been asked to sit still, and for me it’s felt like an opportunity to hit the reset button and really formulate a plan to sell all my work online. I’ve also been working on more T-shirt designs. This week I’m relaunching two campaigns campaigns and introducing a new design, so that I can continue to support myself during these trying times.”

I can already see a shift happening

Courtesy of Kim Van Vuuren

“It’s been incredibly humbling for me over the past couple of weeks to see so many orders for all over the world.”

Courtesy of Kim Van Vuuren

“Longer term, I think a lot is going to change. I can already see a shift happening within myself and the creative communities around me. Creatives will be taking the time to focus on their goals and adapting to working remotely. It’s also going to push small store owners to move all their products online. I think we are generally going to operate differently and really consider our time, our relationship to our work, our relationship to each other, how and what we consume, and who we support.”

Shop Kim’s Aperol T-shirt here

Sarah Firth

Melbourne-based artist and writer Sarah Firth’s output spans illustrations, graphic essays and cartoons published both online and in print by the likes of Picador, Gestalten, Allen & Unwin, Affirm Press and Abrams Book. Currently she’s at work on her debut graphic novel.

Courtesy of Sarah Firth

“This crisis has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, because a good proportion of my business is events based, when those all got cancelled or postponed indefinitely, I lost a huge chunk of my income for the coming months. That has been scary and something I’ve had to grieve and let go of. 

But at the same time, interesting opportunities have popped up because of the crisis, for me to bring my business offerings to virtual meetings and assist with visual communications. I already have a home studio so when I first lost work I gained time, and I was able to quite smoothly transition into personal projects that had been on the back burner. I’ve particularly relished being able to slow down and focus on the research and writing of my graphic novel.”

Courtesy of Sarah Firth

“In March when work unexpectedly bottomed out, being able to sell my T-shirts is what kept me afloat financially and softened the blow.”

The importance of creative work has become clearer

“The shake-up of a crisis and the uncertainty and change it brings is always scary, but with so many people isolated at home, the importance of creative work has in many ways become clearer. With people’s work now being disrupted, they are more open to experiment.”

Shop Sarah Firth’s Big Stick Energy T-shirt here


Born in Aversa, near Naples, but now based out of Milan, Ignorance1 works across spheres, both in fashion as a digital designer and as a digital artist.

Courtesy of Ignorance1

“I am trying to remember that there are good sides to quarantine too, and to make the most of the positives. For instance right now I have a long to-do list, I’m working on some brand new graphics, and thinking about new ideas and upcoming projects. It’s worth focusing on the fact that at the minute we don’t have the stressful mindset of everyday life. Instead, there’s more time for experimentation, and perhaps for projects we wouldn’t usually do.”

Courtesy of Ignorance1

“The response to my T-shirts across the last couple of weeks has been amazing. I’m really grateful that even in an extraordinarily complicated period like this people are supporting my work by buying my T-shirts.” 

“Depending on how long this period continues, and especially if it’s for more than two or three months, there will be a very big impact on independent creatives. In the case of Italy, where I’m from, the country and government definitely has a responsibility to offer more help than it has already. The positive, though, is that we have the opportunity to keep spreading creativity as much as possible, especially in the digital realm and on social media, and to keep feeding ideas for the future.” 

Courtesy of Ignorance1

Read More: State of Play: The Music Industry